Point-and-click adventures don’t seem to lend themselves well to the high-octane speed and tension of the shoot ’em up genre, but Imagos Softworks is giving the unlikely mashup their all with Starr Mazer, and it looks incredible.
If you only have a moment, I suggest you check out the team’s Kickstarter page, which, at the time of writing this article, has raised over $77,000 of its $160,000 goal.
The story follows Brick M. Stone (the M. stands for “Metal”) who has been frozen for over one-hundred years, eventually awakening to a world where his wild-west style ways don’t get him as far as they did in the past. Don Thacker, creator, writer and lead designer behind Starr Mazer, told us, “Obviously he looks like a ’70s space-dandy-kinda-really-cool-looking-macho dude. He’s a badass with a ceramic-alloy steed.” Basically, prior to being frozen, Brick M. Stone was used to being in a world where he could get everything he wanted with brawn alone.
Thacker continued, “But he now lives in a world where you can’t just shoot your way through everything. It’s a really complicated world; a world where humans and aliens don’t have separate bathrooms anymore,” And Brick has to learn how to survive in that world. “Basically, I’m doing a trick… I’m taking old school gameplay and updating it,” and players will go through that process of updating with brick through the game’s unique concept called Open-Middled Gameplay (OMG!)
Starr Mazer will be released as individual episodes, all culminating into a single season. Each episode will have multiple beginnings as well as multiple endings, meaning that, as Thacker explained, “[With Open-Middled Gameplay,] if I have 10 ins and 10 outs, I take two [episodes] and stick them together, I have 20 versions of that story. [editor’s note: I checked the math, there would actually be 100 versions.] If I add one more, I have an order of magnitude more, so every story module increases exponentially the amount of story that can happen based on your use.” I admitted to Thacker that I was still very confused, so he dumbed it down for me.
“Have you ever seen Cowboy Bebop? So, y’know how the first couple episodes mean something and the last couple episodes have to mean something, but the middle, you can kind of watch in any order? That’s kind of how this plays out,” Thacker explained. “Brick starts at the bar and ends at the bar, but the story is all up to you.”
The gameplay is equally as ambitious as the storytelling. “Sometimes you have to shmup [Shoot ’em up] a boss, but you can actually talk your way out of fighting using point and click adventure tropes. It’s not a mashup, it is an integration.”
“The coolest part is that is doesn’t actually transition [between gameplay styles] at all. You walk up to your Starr Wolf, you get into the Starr Wolf, you pilot the Starr Wolf out. We don’t change the UI. The UI gradually pulls out to reveal the SHMUP. You do your stuff, you find the planet you’re gonna land on, you get into orbit, you land, and you hop out. There’s no cutscene, there’s no loading. It’s not interconnected gameplay, it’s just one game. In Mario, sometimes you jump, sometimes you swim. You don’t ‘transition’ between those.”
Starr Mazer’s art and music are both impeccable. Bright and detailed sprites accompanied by high-energy chiptune music makes every moment of the game look and sound exciting.
If the game’s Kickstarter project succeeds, you can expect Starr Mazer in April, 2016 for Linux, Mac, and Windows, with stretch goals for console versions.